By Raheem Ajayi
It is the earnest desire of all genuine stakeholders in a secured future that guarantees hopes and aspirations for present and future generations that the lofty ideas which coalesced intoDevelopment Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) would become reality soonest. Recently, stakeholders in the six southwest states of Ekiti, Lagos, Oyo, Ondo, Osun and Ogun led by the governors and their representatives converged on Lagos in continuation of the efforts at fine-tuning modalities for the implementation of the much-awaited regional socio-economic integration under the aegis of the DAWN Commission which was conceived and birthed a couple of years back. It is therefore pleasant to note that a new age beckons at DAWN and appears to be taking firm footing after the incubation period that elicited so much expectation. To this extent, there is indeed a renewed assurance that the initiative would soon blossom into reality with prospects of mutual cooperation amongst actors in governance across the southwest which will ultimately translate into limitless socio-economic opportunities for states and peoples of the southwest.
But much more gratifying however is that the new age at DAWN is coming at such an auspicious period Ogun state has been repositioned to adequately translate opportunities of regional integration to bolster developments in all ramifications. Without doubt, lack of vision towards harnessing the boundless economic potentials across the southwest to trigger mutual developmental opportunities in the region has for too long a time featured as a major failure of politics; and as well as a huge disservice to corporate entities as well as the interest of individuals across the region. It is often a thing of pride, as much as it is incontrovertible, to recall the developmental strides of the western region in the short spell of post-independent era. The defunct western region was already on the threshold of greatness that seemed unassailable but for the political crises of the era. But for the political crises that terminated Nigeria’s first republic, the defunct western region was set on the momentum and pace that was bound to change perception regarding the capacity of the black race to provide leadership long before the 20th century receded into the bowel of history. Notwithstanding, the impact of developmental pace of the old western region still remains vivid, to some extents, in the six states that make up the present day southwest geopolitical zone as well as in parts of the present day Edo, Delta, Kogi and Kwara states.
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Considering the present day reality in Nigeria, the prospects of economic integration are, no doubt, strategic to deploying human and material resources to engaging emerging challenges of governance. The quest for engaging with the dynamics of plural societies which is at the core of the complexities of development within the context of Nigeria’s troubled federal arrangement could hardly be addressed without commitment to exploring and harnessing mutual opportunities amongst contiguous states in the country.
Inevitably, the quest of providing enduring antidote to the vagaries of social upheavals manifesting in the tortuous paths of evolving an enduring nation makes commitment to socio-economic integration imperative to engender the deployment of comparative advantages in stimulating growths and development within and across the regions of the federation.It should be instructive to note that prior to the recent reawakening of the desire to realise the mission of DAWN, Ogun state in demonstration of commitment to southwest integration had in 2012 ceded 1000 hectares of land situated at Eggua to Lagos state for Rice cultivation in addition to clearing about 500 hectares of the land under an existing Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). However, the story today is that Lagos state is partnering with Kebbi state to produce LAKE Rice while Ogun is pursuing another initiative with MITROS Rice. It must be emphasised that while collaboration on all fronts will help the southwest region and by extension grow the Nigerian economy, it is however important that the new age at DWAN be founded on renewed commitment to actualising objective of integration beyond mere convenience of proclamation or political exigencies. The desire to pursuing mutual agenda under the DAWN Commission should be such that portends prosperity for all on the basis of commitment to shared values and accord by political authority.
However, while regional integration is desirable, it would be worthwhile for states within the southwest to be genuinely and faithfully committed to mutual agenda that not only recognises potentials and opportunities but also seeks to deploy collective strength into growing the commonwealth in the overall interest of all and sundry. With the recent coming on board of Lagos state as a bonafide partner in the Oodua Economic Community, it has become even more compelling to evolve enduring blueprint for the operational model of integration to avail member states the roadmap for strengthening the cooperation that will expand the boundaries of opportunities. Going forward with the agenda of DAWN, the need for a well articulated blueprint is pertinent and could not be further delayed as it represents an important step in realising the goals of integration. It could not also be overemphasised that the integration plan should seek to focus attention on how the cooperation will translate into benefits in the short and long runs in such a way that the trickledown effects will become visible in the lives of the mass of the people across the southwest.
It is to this extent therefore that it has become pertinent to reiterate that ongoing massive infrastructural developments in Ogun state offer ample windows for the expansion of opportunities within the frameworks of southwest regional integration. It is anticipated that the foundation of economic growth that has been laid in Ogun state through the creation of enabling environments within the multiple investment corridors emerging across the gateway state would be leveraged upon to boost economic integration in the southwest. The proximity of Ogun state to Lagos which is Nigeria’s commercial hub centre as well as its vantage location as the main artery to the southwest in particular and as well as other states in Nigeria in general further underscores the wisdom in the ambitious pursuits of infrastructural renewal by the current administration of Senator Ibikunle Amosun which would now readily advance the cause of southwest regional integration.
Raheem Ajayi, Senior Special Assistant to Ogun State Governor on Public Affairs, wrote from Abeokuta, Ogun State.